Broken Shaker co-creator and Bar Lab cofounder Gabe Orta remembers when the most creative cocktail in South Beach was a frozen mix margarita with an upside-down Corona bottle as both garnish and floater.
"Just a few years back, there wasn't anywhere to get a good cocktail in Miami. It was a lot of nightclubs and high-volume places with a 'doorman' mentality. My dream was to open a place that was low-key where everyone was welcome no matter how they're dressed."
Orta, along with business partner Elad Zvi, went on to create one of the nation's most iconic concepts — the Broken Shaker — in 2012. The 30-day pop-up, designed to travel to cities across the nation, was so popular in Miami Beach it turned into a mainstay at the Freehand Hotel, was ranked 16th on the list "The World's 50 Best Bars," and has expanded to New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
At the time, the pair's carefully crafted drinks were among the first to be stirred with custom-made ice and fresh herbs straight from the patio garden, launching a trend in the Miami cocktail scene. But Orta insists he wasn't doing anything different — he was simply doing what he loved.
Orta and Zvi created their own brand of cool again with the Anderson, a neighborhood bar they reimagined as an '80s-era dance-club-inspired hot spot that garnered praise as one of Esquire's 2018 picks for
Just like crafting a new concept or constructing a balanced drink,
"The bartender is the curator of your evening," Orta says. "For me, they're like the DJ when you go to a party. It's the person in charge of the room, directing every part of your experience. It's not just about a perfectly balanced cocktail. It's also the perfect balance of fun, conversation, and mood."
During the 18th-annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival, you can find many of South Florida's top bartenders shaking things up at a number of events geared toward the art of the cocktail. Here are the ones to look out for.
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Bacardi Presents the Art of Tiki Cocktail Showdown, hosted by Ted Allen. Get your tiki on at the Surfcomber, where Ted Allen, author
Cocktail Creating Master Class. Let Sipsmith brand ambassador JP Calabria show you how to make a drink the old-fashioned way: with a few bar skills. Learn to mix cocktails like a master as you swirl, clink, and create the afternoon away in a hip setting while sipping drinks you made with Sipsmith
Cocktail Master Class. Bodega, a South Beach taqueria that houses a hidden late-night bar, will welcome attendees through a secret passageway to reveal a mixology class worth seeking out. You'll learn to mix cocktails with Gabe Urrutia, author of Miami Cocktails: An Elegant Collection of Over 100 Recipes Inspired by the Magic City, along with some of Miami's best bartenders. The class will teach you everything you need to know to be the host with the most as you learn simple tricks and tips to wow your guests via specialty cocktails. Afterward, spend the rest of your day imbibing your own custom libations. 2:30 to 4 p.m. Saturday, February 23, at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, 1220 16th St., Miami Beach. Tickets are sold out.
Behind the Shaker: Miami's Top Bartenders